50th St. Gallen Symposium "Freedom Revisited": 7–8 May 2020

EDIT HEADER

Small Company, Big Vision

Sahar Mansoor calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur.”

The 27-year-old studied in the UK, where she earned a degree in environmental policy and planning at Cambridge University. Mansoor’s road to entrepreneurship began when she went back home to Bangalore, India in 2015 for work. There, she began helping her sister, who had just had a baby. “We were producing so much waste,” Mansoor says. “I decided to stop being part of the waste problem and start being part of the solution.”

As a first step, Mansoor stopped buying personal care products in plastic containers, which can take 700 years or more to decompose. She rediscovered ancient Indian recipes for soap, shampoo and toothpaste. “Our grandmothers were probably all zero-wasters. This lifestyle used to be for everyone.”

Soon, Mansoor’s talks on her zero-waste lifestyle at local flea markets attracted people’s interest and boosted awareness on the garbage crisis. The more people got involved, the more people started asking “where can I buy these zero-waste products?”

Responding to the demand, Mansoor founded her company, Bare Necessities, in 2016. Based in Bangalore (the “Silicon Valley of India”) it sells environmentally-friendly products, such as soap bars, compostable bamboo toothbrushes and steel straws, in recyclable, reusable and biodegradable packaging.

Our grandmothers were probably all zero-wasters. This lifestyle used to be for everyone.
Sahaar Mansoor

Inspired by the theme song from the movie “The Jungle Book,” the brand’s name asks people to re-evaluate what they really need and what their bare necessities are. “We’re caught in a web of convenience. We like to have our coffee to go. We like our food delivered to our door,” Mansoor says. “We produce waste without thinking about the consequences.”

For Mansoor, the waste problem is not due to lack of innovation, but to solely profit-driven innovation. “We need to innovate thinking of both economic and environmental benefits,” she says. “Why are people only thinking about profit when you can care for people and the planet at the same time?”

Bare Necessities -- which now has six employees -- manages to balance profit and sustainability, selling zero-waste products while also promoting a sustainable lifestyle through talks and workshops for the local community.

“My goal is not to be the big McDonald’s of the world. My ultimate goal is for less waste to end up in the landfill,” Mansoor says. “If I’m teaching people how to lead a zero-waste life, that’s my mission accomplished.”

If I’m teaching people how to lead a zero-waste life, that’s my mission accomplished.